To the Editor:
Last week, Mr. Ron Robinson of Jackson County quoted a statistic in support of re-electing our county commissioners; our property tax rate is one of the lowest at 28 cents per $100 of valuation (“Incumbents are best for commissioner seats,” Sept. 22, Smoky Mountain News, www.smokymountain-news.com/index.php/component/k2/item/1492-incumbents-are-best-for-commissioner-seats). But, there is much more to this story.
What he didn’t talk about was the fact that our property tax rate used to be at 26 cents before it went up to 28 cents. He didn’t mention that our county’s solvency or our ability to pay our long-term debt obligations has taken a nosedive of 30 points from a high in 2007 (www.nctreasurer.com-/dsthome/State-AndLocalGov/lgcreport).
The more important statistic we should look at from the report created by the N.C. Treasurer is the county’s overall financial performance and how much it has improved or gotten worse. Ours has plummeted in the last three years from about 18 percent down to 2 percent for 2009. In fact, if you look at our performance compared to our peers — Macon, Haywood and Swain — we have fallen 35 percent, which is the highest possible percent of change that is even measured by the N.C. Treasury Department. These numbers do not support Mr. Robinson’s argument to re-elect our county commissioners.
Our property tax rate might be low, but more importantly it went up. The statement that we have one of the lowest rates is just another way of saying we are one of the poorest counties (with the highest paid upper-level county employees, specifically, our county manager). Remember that our tax rate went up, and remember that our highest paid county employees got a million dollar raise during a time when our financial performance was sinking.
Also, those pay raises went against the $25,000 research results from the Mercer Group. But the most disturbing fact is that the Mercer group reported that it was our lower-level employees who were not paid enough. The same people that gave themselves the big pay raises, trashed the research and took away the measly 2 percent cost-of-living raises from the underpaid employees. That is not fair, is not right, and is not just. It’s right next door to “low-down.”
Lastly, as for the new ordinances, when have you ever seen a county ordinance enforced? That’s a non-issue. I don’t know all the people running in the election yet, but at this moment I’m thinking that I’m just going to vote against ALL the incumbents. It couldn’t get much worse than it is now. Surely.
Huntsville, Ala. (Jackson County native)